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ShopRite storefront_Lake Ronkonkoma NY.JPG ShopRite/Wakefern Food Corp.

Wakefern expands shelf camera pilot to 50 stores

Computer vision system enables auto-detection of out-of-stocks

Wakefern Food Corp. plans a 50-store test of a computer vision system that automatically identifies when product stock runs outs on shelves.

San Francisco-based retail automation specialist Focal Systems said Wednesday that its platform previously was being piloted at four Wakefern supermarkets. The Keasbey, N.J.-based grocery retail cooperative, whose independent supermarkets operate mainly under the ShopRite banner, has been testing Focal’s technology for more than a year.

Plans call for the expanded pilot to get under way this fall. Focal’s shelf camera-based solution captures images of store shelves to determine which items are out of stock. Data is generated hourly.

“Focal Systems’ out-of-stock detection through computer vision and artificial intelligence has enabled us to automatically identify shelf gaps,” Wakefern Chief Information Officer Cheryl Williams said in a statement. “This early success has encouraged our members to opt into a 50-store pilot expansion this autumn,” she added.

Focal SystemsFocal Systems shelf camera.jpg

Once out-of-stocks are flagged, the Focal platform’s Stocker Action Tools sort them by lost sales per hour (LSH) and frustrated shoppers per hour (FSH). The company said this information helps store associates prioritize out-of-stocks as they occur and recoup the most lost sales as possible per labor hour to make the most customers happy. In addition, the system provides an “out-of-stock hours” metric that enables the retailer to rack on-shelf availability of products from store to store.

“Each detection is sent directly to Wakefern’s proprietary mobile application, which prioritizes out-of-stocks by department, aisle and in-stock availability,” according to Williams. “Our stores have seen time savings and operational improvements by incorporating the new information into their daily tasks.”

Focal noted that its platform allows store associates to spend more time serving customers because it eliminates the need to manually scan for out-of-stock items. On its website, the company — whose technology is being used by more than 10 top-tier retailers on three continents — reported that its computer vision system reduce out-of-stock hours by over 30%, resulting in an 8% gain in sales and satisfied customers.

“Customer expectations are high, and retailers want to deliver on those expectations,” stated Focal CEO Francois Chaubard. “Focal Systems provides the real-time data retailers need to run their stores efficiently. The system delivers insight into what’s happening throughout the store and allows for better decision making by delivering alerts on out-of-stocks to store associates, merchandising teams and supply chain systems. We are thrilled to expand our partnership with Wakefern and continue driving value for them and their customers.”

Overall, Wakefern’s retailer-owned grocery cooperative has 50 members who own and operate 353 supermarkets under the ShopRite, The Fresh Grocer, Price Rite Marketplace and Dearborn Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Virginia.

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